|Reportedly inspired by news of the unveiling of a Robert Burns statue in San Francisco, in 1911, (the same year that the Winnipeg Burns Club joined the Burns Federation) the club, under President Colin Campbell, made a decision to raise, by public subscription, a sum sufficient to erect a statue to Robert Burns, and appointed a committee, of Chairman Col John Y Reid, Dr Isaac Pitblado KC LLD, Lt Col Hugh Osler and Mr Alex Jamieson. William Anderson Weir was appointed as Treasurer of the fund.|
It had been suggested that $50,000 could be raised, but Scottish caution prevailed and a goal of $10,000 was set. The first donor was a K. G. Affleck, who subscribed $50.00. Other subscribers included the famous Scottish-American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, the largest donor at $500.00. A multitude of others contributed various amounts, down to two of 50 cents, and one of 25.
By the time World War I began, the total collected amounted to $3,297.25. After sundry expenses were paid, an amount of $3,000 was left in Mr. Weir’s custody. In 1925 the committee was approached and asked if the money might be used to help erect a building to house all the various Scottish Societies, but were refused. In 1930, the General Hospital suggested that they might establish a “Burns Ward,” but were refused the funds.
Finally, a Mrs Marguerite Taylor offered to supply a statue and four panels for $6,000. The committee were inclined to accept, but postponed until they could be assured that they had sufficient funds for the purchase outright. The club ultimately agreed to purchase the statue and panels for $5,000, plus shipping and related expenses.
The pedestal on which the statue stands was completed, by Mr Jamieson of the committee, for about $2,100.
The statue, a very fine bronze, similar to the one in Ayr, was unveiled, on October 12, 1936 a cold wintry Thanksgiving Day before a crowd of over 300, on the grounds of the provincial Legislative Building, by Lieutenant-Governor W. J. Tupper, presented to the province by Committee Chairman Col. John Y Reid, and accepted by Premier John Bracken.
It has been said that the story of the statue is largely the account of the enthusiasm, integrity and zeal of one man, William Anderson Weir who, in the face of stiff opposition, retained custody of the fund until it could be used for the purpose for which it was intended and held steady for 25 years. In 1940, in recognition of his efforts, the Burns Federation bestowed on Mr. Weir its highest honour, the rank of Honorary President. Mr Weir was the first Canadian to be so recognized.
Annually the club continues to gather, in July, at the statue, for a memorial service. The 2022 Memorial Service was held July 24.